Future Urbanism’ is a collection of interviews with contemporary writers, architects, sociologists, economists and city planners conducted by ‘Strelka’ students – essentially a work for true detectives. Together with our interlocutors we searched for evidence, we questioned facts, we extrapolated from past discoveries, we speculated about hidden patterns, we looked for clues at a messy and distorted ‘crime scene’ that is contemporary city, in order to find answers to the whole range of unsettling questions.

Urbanism as a field has always eluded precise definition. At different times, depending on what kind of professionals were at the steering wheel of urban studies and projective exploration of the city, the ‘gay and dismal science’ of urbanism took on various meanings and identified its subject in multiple ways. This high volatility turned out to be the immanent characteristic of a discipline, that studied simultaneously the built fabric of the city and the life of its citizens, the political and the social, the economic and the cultural, the practical and the theoretical. While studying the precarious nature of urban development, it has itself been in a state of constant flux…

Confronted by perpetual crisis of a modern city, urbanists of the past century have at a certain moment developed a toolkit and a theoretical apparatus to deal with the assortment of typical problems of the industrial age – from lack of hygiene and abject poverty to the fluctuations of density and challenges of standardization – and used it to a significant effect. Yet, this urban instrumentarium was bound to be constantly questioned (and, eventually, changed), as cities evolve into even more complex, dynamic and unstable organisms, calling for absolutely new types of researchers with new sets of skills and tools.

Could we predict the trajectory of the discipline in coming decades? What kind of urbanism will we need in the near future? What will be its main topics and methods? Its goals and subjects? Who exactly will be these Future urbanists and how should we educate them today?

Our conversations with professionals of various age and backgrounds, emphasizing what we would call interdisciplinary thinking, constituted a metaphorical public space where all these questions could be freely posed and discussed – if not fully answered.

Анастасия Смирнова
Anastassia Smirnova
Strelka Institute programming director